Four British Soldiers Arrested Over Involvement in a Banned Nazi Terror Group

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE BBC)

 

Four British Soldiers Arrested Over Involvement in a Banned Nazi Terror Group

10:30 PM ET

Four active duty members of the British Army have been arrested, under the country’s anti-terror laws, on alleged involvement in a banned neo-nazi group.

Along with a fifth person, a civilian, they are suspected of being members of National Action, the first far-right group to be banned in the U.K. for promoting violence and terrorist acts, reports BBC News.

Police said that no public safety threat was involved.

“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far-right group,” a spokesperson for the British Army told the BBC.

One of the arrested soldiers was detained in a U.K. military base in Cyprus, reports the BBC, while the others were being held in a police station in West Midlands.

National Action is described by anti-terror officials as “explicitly neo-Nazi.” British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called it “a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organization” when she announced its ban last December.

Being members of a proscribed group, or merely inviting support for one, carries up to 10 years’ imprisonment in the U.K. if convicted, the BBC says.

[BBC]

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

 July 28 at 6:20 PM
The lengthy legal battle over Charlie Gard
Charlie Gard’s parents ended their legal fight over the terminally ill infant’s treatment July 24. Here’s what you need to know about the legal battle over his life. (Monica Akhtar, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

After months of fighting for Charlie Gard’s life — then pleading for time to bid him goodbye — the terminally ill British infant’s parents said Friday that he had died.

The 11-month-old boy’s case had elicited sympathy and support from Pope Francis and President Trump and inflamed an international debate over end-of-life rights.

His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, announced his death a day after a British court ruled that the infant should be moved to hospice care and removed from a ventilator — as the pair pleaded for a few more days with their son, a spokesman for the family told BBC Newsthe Guardian and the Associated Press.

“Our beautiful little boy has gone,” Yates said Friday in a statement, according to British news reports. “We are so proud of you Charlie.”

The somber news of Charlie’s death reverberated across the world Friday evening.

Francis wrote in a message on social media, “I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” and extended her “thoughts and prayers” to Charlie’s parents, according to BBC News. Vice President Pence‏ said on Twitter that he was “saddened to hear of the passing of Charlie Gard.”

I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.

For several months, Charlie’s parents had been fighting in court to keep him alive. His case became the embodiment of a passionate debate over his right to live or die, his parents’ right to choose for their child and whether his doctors had an obligation to intervene in his care.

The bitter legal battle came to an exhausting and emotional end Thursday when High Court Judge Nicholas Francis made the decision to move Charlie to hospice care and let him die after Charlie’s parents and doctors could not agree on how much time the child should have to live. The judge said Charlie should be removed from the ventilator, which “will inevitably result in Charlie’s death within a short period of time thereafter.”

His parents had also lost a fight to let him die at home.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, which had been treating Charlie, said it had been “a uniquely painful and distressing process” for everyone.

Charlie, who was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, sustained brain damage that had taken away his ability to see, hear and breathe on his own.

His parents had raised money to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment they had not yet tried, but doctors at Great Ormond Street asserted that the child had no chance of survival. The case trickled through the British court system and ended up in the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to hear it, upholding previous court rulings that it was in Charlie’s best interest to let him die.

It was that decision that thrust Charlie’s case into the international spotlight.

In June, the Vatican’s children’s hospital said it would admit the boy, with the pope saying on social media that “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.”

To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to us all.

Charlie’s parents said the support had given them renewed hope. Hospitals in Rome and New York opened their doors, and the High Court gave his parents the opportunity to present evidence in the case.

Michio Hirano, a neurology expert at Columbia Medical Center in New York, and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital initially said the experimental medical treatment might help Charlie, according to the Associated Press. But Great Ormond Street said that idea had done nothing more than give Charlie’s parents false hope that their son could recover.

Given the American invitations to assist Charlie, the court case also raised significant differences between British and American ethical approaches to experimental treatments.

In the United States, patients can be given certain drugs even if it is known that the drugs in question will not improve their condition, insofar as knowledge of their effects may improve the conditions of others in the future.

The same it is not the case in the United Kingdom, where, by contrast, doctors cannot administer treatments that know will not improve the patient’s condition in a specific case.

It was decided earlier this week that Charlie’s parents should let him go, when it became clear that the experimental treatment they wanted for their son was no longer possible.

After further medical tests, Chris Gard told reporters, “we’ve decided it is no longer in Charlie’s best interest to pursue treatment, and we will let our son go and be with the angels.”

“Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” Gard added. “We will have to live with the what-ifs that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

After Charlie’s death, Great Ormond Street said in a statement that it sent “heartfelt condolences to Charlie’s parents and loved-ones at this very sad time.”

This story has been updated. James McAuley contributed to this report from Paris.

Read more:

After losing battle to keep Charlie Gard alive, his parents are fighting to let him die at home

Charlie Gard not allowed to receive Vatican’s care, hospital spokesman says

Charlie Gard may have new hope: Hospital asks court to rehear case of terminally ill infant

Charlie Gard’s parents to present new evidence in case surrounding terminally ill son

10 Interesting facts about London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘DEBLOGTROOP’ BLOG)

 

10 Interesting facts about London

Disclosure: Some posts may contains affiliate links, which means we receive commission if you make a purchase using these links.

Fact#1: “Big Ben” is not the clock tower.

Big Ben London

The Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the tower. The tower itself is called the “Elizabeth Tower”. The tower is currently tilting to one side, similar to the leaning tower of Pisa! This is partly as a result of decades of underground excavation.

Fact#2: It’s the most visited city in the world.

London England

In 2014, London attracted over 16 million international visitors, setting a record of the most visited city in the world.

Fact#3: Taxi drivers in London have to take a test called “knowledge test”.

London Cab

The black cab taxi drivers have to pass the insanely difficult geography test called the “knowledge test”. They are expected to master 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within those routes and just about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest within a six-mile radius of Charring Cross. So if you see someone on a scooter with a large map, it could most probably be an aspiring cabbie studying for the “knowledge test”.

Fact#4: The Palace of Westminster is the largest palace in the country.

Westminster Big Ben London

The houses of parliament are known as the Palace of Westminster. It is the largest palace in the country consisting of 6 restaurants, 8 bars, 1000 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, a hair salon and a rifle shooting range. Fun fact: It is illegal to die in the Palace of Westminster.

Fact#5: London tried building its own Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower France Parise London

In 1889, London started to build a structure designed to surpass the Eiffel Tower in height but it was unsteady and was never completed. It was later on demolished in 1907.

Fact#6: About 40% of Greater London is green space.

London England

There is a lot of greenery is the city of greater London, the whole city is covered in green. With over 8 million trees in London, London can be classified as a forest according to a UN definition.

Fact#7: The city of London is one of the smallest in the UK.

London Downing Street

The core city of London is actually the smallest city in London stretching up to only 1.12 square miles with a population of around 7000. However, the area which developed around the core city called Greater London consists of about 8.5 million people and it is large enough to fit 4 New York Cities.

Fact#8: There is a cereal café in London.

Cereal Killer Cafe London

There is a special café in London that serves hundreds of varieties of breakfast cereals from around the world. The name of the café is “Cereal Killer Café”.

Fact#9: The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London.

London Traffic Lights

The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London in the year 1868 at the junction of Great George St and Bridge St near Westminster Palace in London. However, it was short-lived, as it exploded less than a month later injuring the operating police officer.

Fact#10: “London Eye” is the most popular tourist attraction in London.

London Eye

The London Eye is the name of a huge Ferris wheel located on the south bank of River Thames. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. It was the tallest in the world until 2006 when the Star of Nanchang in China surpassed it.

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

Story highlights

  • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said carriers will embark on freedom of navigation exercises
  •  Beijing says “certain outside countries” attempting to “stir up trouble”

Hong Kong (CNN) China has hit back at the UK after the country’s foreign secretary said two British aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea.

Speaking Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region.
“Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance,” he added.
His remarks come after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking in Australia Thursday, said “one of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area.”
Johnson did not specify exactly where the carriers would be sent, but added the operation was designed to “vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the deployment area was not finalized “but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.”

Johnson spoke alongside Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Speaking at an event in Sydney Thursday evening, Johnson urged all parties in the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law” and suggested the UK could sail ships through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.
All or parts of the sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has led to intense territorial disputes and naval stand-offs.

The new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Rosyth dockyard in Scotland to be tested in the North Sea on June 26, 2017.

Freedom of navigation

Beijing has accused the United States of creating a “serious political and military provocation” by conducting similar freedom of navigation operations.
US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation this month, according to Canada’s National Post, during which they were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels.
Neither the UK or US recognize Beijing’s territorial claims — which were largely thrown out by an international tribunal last year — and maintain vessels should be able to pass through the waters around the islands occupied by China the same as other international waters.
The South China Sea sees $5 trillion in shipborne trade every year, and also has major fishing and energy resources.
That the UK is apparently taking sides in the dispute is likely to especially rankle in Beijing, where memories of China’s so-called “century of humiliation,” during which it suffered embarrassing defeat to the UK in the Opium Wars, are still fresh — and kept so by state propaganda and the country’s education system.
Speaking in Hong Kong this month to mark 20 years since the city was handed over from the UK to China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, said that China “was again and again beaten by countries having far smaller territories and populations than itself … the history of China at that time was filled with the nation’s humiliation and its people’s grief.”

Waning ties

Under former British Prime Minister David Cameron, London had warmed to Beijing, and Cameron had hailed a new “golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
The luster has faded somewhat in the wake of Brexit however. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. The UK’s decision to leave the bloc has shattered any assumptions about a tight London-Beijing relationship acting as a gateway to the wider EU.
Cameron’s successor Theresa May has also brought the UK closer to the US, visiting Donald Trump in Washington and seeking to improve economic ties with the US to make up for lost European trade.
Speaking Thursday evening, Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK’s carriers — the 280 meter and 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, neither of which is yet fully commissioned — was “not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
The vessels have cost British taxpayers upwards of $8.1 billion and been subject to criticism for taking up a large chunk of the UK’s defense budget. The carriers are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Johnson did not give a timeline as to when any South China Sea deployment by the carriers is likely to start. His comments come after the Royal Navy shadowed a Chinese flotilla through the English Channel on its way to exercises with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea.

Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE BBC)

A Report Claims That Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

6:01 AM ET

A report by a British think tank claims that Saudi Arabia is the principle foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom and alleges a “clear and growing link” between overseas funding and violent Jihadist groups in the country.

The Henry Jackson Society — a neo-conservative think tank — also urges a public inquiry into the funding of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, the BBC reports.

The calls comes as U.K. lawmakers face mounting pressure to release the findings of their own probe into domestic extremist groups, instigated by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. In May, the Home Office described the findings as “very sensitive” and said it that they wouldn’t necessarily be made public.

Read more: Middle East Rifts Are Widening Amid a Global Power Vacuum

Like the United States, the U.K. has deep and convoluted security and economic ties with Saudi Arabia. In an April visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. However, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has lobbied for a block on arms exports to Saudi Arabia on the grounds of the Kingdom’s military action in Yemen and its poor human rights record.

In a statement cited by the BBC, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London dismissed the findings of the Henry Jackson Society as “categorically false” and said they lacked “credible evidence.”

[BBC]

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

London

A Syrian refugee has been named as the first victim of the towerblock inferno in London as officials expected the death toll in the tragedy to rise dramatically.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali has been identified on Friday as a victim in the fire. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.

Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday.

London police said there is nothing to suggest that fire was started deliberately.

Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.

“He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.

“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years.

“When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 30 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”

“The investigation will look in into what criminal offenses may have been committed,” he added.

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the tower, while 11 others have been located but cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure.

Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building works were properly done.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had arrived at a London site where community groups have gathered supplies for those affected by the tower fire disaster.

The queen is meeting with volunteers Friday and she has expressed her sympathies to families of victims. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited on Friday those injured in the fire after facing fierce criticism for attending the site but not meeting with residents.

She visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition.

May pledged on Thursday to hold a public inquiry into a fire that engulfed the building, but she has been widely attacked for not meeting with residents, sending ministers to do so instead.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.

A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside.

Authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

Britain’s government has ordered checks at towers going through similar renovations, and some London neighborhood authorities said Thursday they’d do extra fire-safety assessments at public housing high-rises.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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London Fire: At Least 6 Dead After Blaze Engulfs Apartment Tower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least at least 64 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that six people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By the early afternoon, more than 200 firefighters from all over London were continuing to extinguish the remnants of the fire and to search for survivors, long after the blaze broke out at 1:16 a.m. in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. Constructed in 1974, the building has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors.

“In my 29 years of being a
firefighter, I have never,
ever seen anything of this scale.”DANY COTTON, THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S FIRE BRIGADE

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Commissioner Cotton said the precise number of deaths had not yet been determined because of “the size and complexity of this building.”

Adib Abbas was visiting a cousin who lives on the ninth floor of the building. He said he was preparing a meal before their daily Ramadan fast when he smelled gas and then heard people in the floors below shouting.

“I opened the door and everyone was shouting ‘fire, fire, get back in,’” Mr. Abbas said. “Then a neighbor called my cousin and told us to wait for the Fire Brigade. We were terrified and thought about trying to get out the window. There were people dangling out the windows trying to get out.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Local residents watching the fire. CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My cousin had his kids with him, and they started crying and screaming when the smoke started coming in. There was no way out, we were stuck, and no one was coming to help us,” Mr. Abbas added. “I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like ages before we got out. I could see people lying on the floor as we were being pulled out. I think a lot of people died. It’s a nightmare.”

The Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top of the 24-story building; aerial photographs showed the charred, blackened and still smoking ruins looming over West London.

Forty fire trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 patients to six hospitals. Twenty were in critical condition.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Columns of thick smoke. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 people to six hospitals. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said the process of tracking everyone who was unaccounted for was “very complex,” and urged survivors to call a hotline set up to establish the condition of all the building’s residents. He said the Fire Brigade had arrived within six minutes of being called.

Alison Evans, who lives near Grenfell Tower, woke to the sounds of sirens and helicopters and watched the fire engulf the building from a nearby street.

“It just kept burning and burning for hours and for hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help,” she said. “It was hell to watch. We were watching people dying. I can’t imagine how many people must have died in there.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Firefighters training hoses on the building. A residents’ association has regularly complained in its newsletter of fire hazards in the building and what it called inattention by the landlord.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

At dawn, the blaze still burned brightly against the pale sky, with columns of thick black smoke ascending. Ashes filled the air, and small explosions could be heard as helicopters flew overhead. Firefighters on the ground trained hoses on the building. The police were extending their cordon around the building and pushing people back, apparently fearing that the tower could collapse.

Abdul Kadiri, who stood with his family watching the fire, said he had heard sirens about 1:45 a.m.

“My friend lives with his family on the 15th floor of the building,” he said. “I called my friend, and he had no idea what was going on. I told him to grab his family and get out, and he hung up.”

When the friend got out safely, Mr. Kadiri said, “he told me there was smoke everywhere, and he got out with the help of the firefighters who were on the fourth floor. He was a real mess and didn’t say much.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A man inside the burning building. The London Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top floor. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

“He was just so happy to be out of there,” Mr. Kadri said. “He was crying thinking of all the children that would have been asleep on the higher floors and probably weren’t able to get out.”

Another resident, Hanan Wahabi, said she had spoken by phone to her brother, who was on the 21st floor, and urged him to leave. But he said firefighters had told him to stay in place until he could be rescued. Since then, she had been unable to reach him.

“I have done a lot of crying,” she said.

Meriam Antur was asleep on the 19th floor with her two children, her husband away, when she woke to the sound of sirens, followed by shouting in the corridors. “I panicked and called my husband while trying to put on my hijab so I could go and see what was happening,” she said. “I couldn’t get through, so I called my cousin, who told me to get out.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A resident in a nearby building. More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain the blaze. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

When she opened her apartment door, Ms. Antur said, “my neighbors were running back and forth in the corridor shouting at each other. I didn’t understand until my friend came in and said we had to wait for the firemen and couldn’t go down.”

“I was so scared. It took so long, my children were crying, and I’m pregnant,” she said, clasping her belly. “I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”

Paramedics led Ms. Antur and her children away to be checked at a hospital. In the background, a woman ran barefoot down the street in her nightgown, screaming the name Elsa. Ms. Antur’s cousin said it was a neighbor who could not find her 6-year-old daughter.

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Photo

Firefighters in a children’s playground covered in debris from the burning tower nearby. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

In the early hours of the fire, witnesses said they could see lights — thought to be flashlights — blinking at the top of the building.

Bruce Evans, who lives nearby, said that a family of four he is friendly with — including a baby — had escaped from the ninth floor via the main stairs.

“The mum heard screaming and shouting, looked out of the window and saw flames. She said she has shouted ‘Oh my God, it’s fire! Let’s go,’” he said. “They are at the hospital now having checks on the baby.”

Continue reading the main story

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At least 40 fire engines were at the scene. CreditToby Melville/Reuters

Mr. Evans said that he was told that the fire had started on the fourth floor and that the occupant of the apartment in which it started had alerted other residents on that floor.

A residents’ association, the Grenfell Action Group, had been warning for years about fire hazards in the building and the surrounding area, and what it called inattention by the landlord.

According to the Get West London website, the Grenfell Tower block completed a renovation costing 10 million pounds, or $12.8 million, in May 2016. The upgrade — which included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system — was financed by the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as part of a multimillion-dollar improvement project in the area.

In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”

The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, said in a statement: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.” He did not address the complaints raised by the Grenfell Action Group.

Rydon, the construction company that carried out the renovation, said in a statement that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company added.

8COMMENTS

At the time the renovation was announced, in 2014, the management organization said in a statement that “residents of the tower have long had to put up with a substandard heating system and poor insulation,” and that a new heating system would allow them to set the temperatures in their units.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of 32 boroughs that make up London, along with the City, London’s financial district.

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

London- About a year ago, police stopped a young man in the airport of Bologna, a town in northern Italy. Youssef Zaghba, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, had raised suspicions because he was to embark on a one-way ticket for Istanbul: They feared he was trying to reach Syria through Turkey to join a terror group.

After ISIS propaganda materials were found on his smartphone, Zaghba was arrested and briefly detained between March and April 2016. (Attempting to join a foreign ogranization is a crime in Italy, since a special law was introduced in 2015.)

Eventually authorities had to release him because his lawyer found irregularities in the arrest, but the secret services kept monitoring him and put his name in the Schengen Information System (SIS), the database where European Union member states share security information, so that other countries could be alerted that Zaghba posed a danger.

On June 3 of this year, Zaghba participated in the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead, along with the three terrorists.

Despite being in the EU’s watch list, Zaghba was let into Britain at least twice. Moreover, according to the local media, he was not considered “a subject of interest” by British security. Most recently, Zaghba traveled between two countries in January: He was briefly questioned in London’s Stansted airport. (It is unclear if the British failed to go through a check of the SIS database, or if they saw his name on the database and simply ignored the warning, as the newspaper Repubblica suggests.)

How could a terror suspect be on Italy’s watch list and not in the British one? And why didn’t the presence of Zaghba’s name in the SIS prompt UK authorities to keep an eye on him?

The London Bridge attack raises issue about the sharing of security information between European countries, at a time when terrorists have been shown to move often across the EU’s open borders.

It is not unusual after an attack to learn that the perpetrators were already known to anti-terror agencies. Some analysts argue that this doesn’t always imply a security failure, because there are too many people on watch-lists to monitor effectively all of them: There are some 23,000 “subjects of interests” for anti-terror agencies in the UK and 15,000 in France.

“Since it takes at least four agents to monitor a single suspect, it becomes apparent that many European countries lack the resources to monitor all of them and that there’s an overload of security information,” said Arturo Varvelli, the head of the Terrorism Program at ISPI, a think tank in Milan.

However, Zaghba’s case is different — and the way he slipped by, despite all the warnings, might not be just the result of an overburdened security system but also symptomatic of a different problem: European countries still haven’t fully learned how to read (and perhaps trust) each other’s red flags.

“It’s the second time, in less than a year, that a terrorist already known to Italian authorities has carried an attack in another European country,” notes Francesco Strazzari, a security expert at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, referring to last winter’s attack in Berlin. The Christmas Market attack was carried by a Tunisian man who immigrated to Italy, and whom Italian authorities had tried to deport because they were aware of his radical tendencies.

In an interview, Strazzari recalled that the November 2015 attacks in France were also carried out by terrorists that had ties to a different country, Belgium, and who seemed to move freely between the two.

Critics of the EU have blamed its open borders for security failures, while its supporters point out that assets such as the SIS database are actually supposed to improve the security of each country. But Strazzari says that the main problem is that sometimes information gets “lost in translation.”

The EU, he says, doesn’t really have a pan-European security apparatus, but only a system that aims at coordinating the security services of each of its member states.

Varvelli, the ISPI researcher, argues that lack of trust might also pose a problem. Red flags about individuals are not clear cut, he explains: “Security officials need to interpret them, in order to grasp the level of danger, and knowing where that information comes from plays an important part in the process.”

But while they are bound to share information, the secret services of different countries aren’t keen on sharing with each other how they gathered that information — which ends up making the information less useful.

Varvelli said that ISIS is “well aware” of this weakness and are exploiting it: “Terrorists have realized that if they are closely monitored in the country they are based in, a good strategy is to move to a different country.”

The Washington Post

London Mayor (Rightfully) Suggest (Trump The Ignorant) Not Be Allowed In The UK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN AND TIME NEWS AGENCIES)

London’s Mayor Suggests Cancelling President Trump’s State Visit After His Criticisms on Twitter

Updated: 7:49 AM ET | Originally published: Jun 05, 2017

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should not be welcomed to the U.K. because his policies are incompatible with British values, as a planned state visit approaches. The mayor’s comments follow criticism from Trump on Twitter over Khan’s response to a terror attack Saturday that left seven people dead in the British capital.

Speaking to Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday, Khan said the U.S. President was wrong about “many things.” According to the Guardian, he added that he doesn’t think Trump should be welcomed to the country.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the President of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said.

President Trump criticized Khan on Sunday after the mayor told Londoners that an increased police presence on the streets was “no cause for alarm.” Trump misleadingly suggested that Khan was downplaying the act of terrorism, which saw a van crash into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men exited the vehicle and attacked several people in nearby Borough Market.

After the mayor’s office contextualized Khan’s remarks, Trump went on the offensive again, tweeting on Monday that the explanation was a “pathetic excuse.”

Read more: President Trump’s Attack on London Mayor

Prime Minister Theresa May told British tabloid The Sun on Tuesday that even though Trump was “wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan” his official state visit to Britain will still go ahead. “The relationship with America is our deepest and most important defence and security relationship” she told the newspaper. “Having said that, I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge.”

Trump’s attack on Khan has drawn sharp criticism not in the U.K. but also from American officials. The acting U.S. Ambassador in London, Lewis Lukens, issued a statement on Twitter offering praise and support for Khan: “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack,” it read.

I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack. – LLukens 3/3 https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/871270734835965952 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,400 communities across the country, also sent Khan an unequivocal message of support.

“[Khan] has risen above this crisis of death and destruction, as mayors continue to do, to alleviate fear, to bring comfort to his people of London and to give support to the first responders who continue to protect, defend and provide emergency care to his people of London,” the statement read. “Thank you, Mayor Khan, for your leadership during this crisis.”

[Guardian]

Terrorist Attacks In City Center Of London England

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Van and knife attack leaves trail of casualties in ‘terrorist incidents’ on London Bridge and in nearby market

London police respond to ‘incident’ on London Bridge
Police respond to an ‘incident’ on London Bridge after a van reported to hit pedestrians on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 3 at 8:19 PM
A van driving at high speed mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants, witnesses said in an attack that police described as terrorism.Police said at least one person had been killed. Witnesses described a trail of serious injuries on the bridge and in the adjacent Borough Market.

The attacks set off scenes of panic in the heart of London on a cool June evening as the city’s streets were filled with people heading home from dinner or out for a drink. In packed pubs — normally scenes of Saturday night revelry and merriment — patrons threw chairs at the attackers as the assailants used long knives to slash their way through crowds.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the attacks were being treated as “terrorist incidents.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned to 10 Downing Street for emergency meetings with security officials, had earlier described the “terrible incidents” as “a potential act of terrorism.”

As of 2 a.m. Sunday, it was unclear whether the assailants remained at large, but police urged the public to remain vigilant and to avoid the area.

If confirmed as terrorism, Saturday would mark the third major attack in Britain in as many months. The evening’s carnage carried grim echoes of a similar incident in late March, when a driver swerved into pedestrians on another Thames crossing, killing four, and then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

May had lowered the nation’s threat level only days ago — from “critical” to “severe” — after having raised it following a bombing last month at a Manchester pop music concert that killed 22.

But even with the lower threat level, the nation’s intelligence services had continued to judge that another attack was likely.

Witnesses reported that a white van was traveling fast — approximately 50 miles per hour — when it mounted the sidewalk and plowed into a group of people crossing the Thames River on foot around 10:30 p.m..

Witnesses speaking to the BBC said the van collided with a guardrail, and three occupants got out. They then began attacking people on the bridge with knives before making their way to Borough Market.

London’s Metropolitan Police later confirmed an attack at Borough Market, an area packed with popular restaurants that is located just south of the bridge. Police said that armed officers were responding to the scene, that there were reports of injuries from knife attacks and that shots had been fired — though it was unclear by who.

“I heard many gunshots and I heard people running away,” said Joe Dillon, 23, who was near London Bridge when the incident occurred. “Police officers were shouting: ‘Get out of here, you need to go!’ I heard at least eight rounds of gunshots, but I’m not sure who was shooting. When I arrived a second after I had heard the screams and the shots, I saw five or six officers running toward the van.”

Cell phone video from a restaurant in the market showed people diving under tables amid the sound of breaking glass as officers rushed in and ordered patrons to stay down.

Tamara Alcolea, 24, who works as a bartender in a pub called Southwark Rooms, which is near the bridge, said the first indication that something was wrong was when she heard that someone had been stabbed. in the proximity of London Bridge.

“Then we heard gunshots and people started to hide beneath the tables,” Alcolea said. “We locked ourselves in the office. From the window, I could see an injured person being treated by emergency personnel. Then the police came in and told us to run. Everyone was panicking.”

As Alcolea recounted her story, she saw two friends who she had lost track of during the melee. She cried and hugged them as they reunited outside a police cordon.

Chris Jacobs, 52, and his wife Kavita Jacobs, 49, were woken up by police officers banging on their door on the third floor of an apartment building at Borough Market.

“I heard gunshots as we left the building,” said Chris Jacobs, who stood next to a petrol station outside the cordon, with no shoes on and holding his dog.

Alex Shellum, an eyewitness, told the BBC he was at the Mudlark pub in the London Bridge area when at around 10 p.m. “a woman probably in her early 20s staggered into the pub and she was bleeding heavily from the neck and from her mouth. It appeared to myself and my friends that her throat had been cut.”

Police said they were responding to a third potential incident in the Vauxhall area, which is about a mile from the scene of the first two incidents. The subway station at Vauxhall was briefly closed, but later reopened. Police later clarified that the Vauxhall incident was unrelated.

Dozens of police cars sped to London Bridge, with helicopters hovering overhead. Police closed the bridge and urged the public to avoid the area.

The incident caused chaos in the heart of London in an area normally bustling on a Saturday night. Pedestrians near the bridge said they were ordered by police to run. Video footage showed people fleeing in a panic. Two hours after the incidents began, police were still widening cordons and pushing bystanders further back from the scenes.

Members of the public were escorted away from the bridge with hands on their heads.

British leaders scrambled to respond to the attacks.

May, who had been out campaigning ahead of an election slated for Thursday, returned to Downing Street and was being briefed by security officials.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter: “Brutal and shocking incidents reported in London. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”

President Trump was briefed on the incident, and immediately took to Twitter to say: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

After taking criticism online for trying to use the attack to advance a policy goal that is now under review in the courts, he sent a follow up tweet minutes later: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement thanking emergency responders, and condemning “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night.’

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